My 3rd Element Jacket before the deluge
Alan Sloman has kicked off another debate on the efficacy of Paramo as a waterproof, following his recent trip to the Dales. For some, this will be a complete turn-off as they have decided that Paramo doesn’t work for them. Paramo is a bit like Marmite, you love it or hate it and there seems to be no middle ground. If you are interested in the debate, hop over to Alan’s blog and read the comments.
I’ve been using Paramo for a long time and mostly I love it. However, I’ve come to realise that, like all gear, it has limitations. There have been occasions where Paramo has left me damp. I’ve not had a complete failure, but I see how it could occur. Firstly, I think Paramo can get overwhelmed in very heavy, driven rain. This has happened to me on a couple of occasions in the last three years. I’ve not ended up being soaked, but have been somewhat damp.
Secondly, contact with anything that soaks up water can compromise its water resistance, especially under pressure. This is a particular problem with rucksack straps. I can contrast my experience with my GG Mariposa Plus with my Osprey Exos 58. The Mariposa has waterproof straps and I’ve never had any problems with water ingress. The Exos has foam straps with some mesh. These seem to cause water to soak through the face material and pump liner to a base layer. I hasten to add that this was only after three hours of heavy driven rain. When I took off my jacket, there were two distinct lines of damp under the straps. I’m sure this wasn’t sweat as I haven’t had the same issue with the Mariposa.
I’ve come to view Paramo as a highly water-resistant soft shell rather than a waterproof. For 80-90% of the time it works well as a waterproof, but there are occasions when it fails. I’m happy to take this chance most of the time, if I’m on two day walks or the weather forecast is OK.
There are occasions when I’ve taken both Paramo and a hard shell. This might seem overkill. However, I like walking in Paramo. If the weather is poor, I don’t find it too hot, even in summer. I love the flexibility of venting (much better than most soft shells) and the protection that it affords in most weather.
I’ve been thinking about what to take on next years TGO Challenge as it will be the longest walk I’ve done in a while. At the moment I’m thinking that a Paramo/hard shell combo is probably the best idea. In terms of hard shell, I’m a fan of eVent. My Montane Quickfire (328g) jacket is excellent, but I’d like something a bit lighter and with a better hood, so I’ve taken the plunge and ordered a OMM Cypher smock after the good reviews that it has garnered from Maz and Bob.
If I take my Velez Adventure Light (560g) and a OMM Cypher Smock (240g), the combo is only marginally heavier than a 3rd Element Jacket (756g), but it gives me a lot more security and flexibility. The other attraction of the Cypher smock is its simplicity and packability. My only reservation is the elasticated cuffs.
Those are my thoughts on the debate.